Panama Political System

According to, with capital city of Panama City, Panama is a country located in North America with total population of 4,314,778.

Following the 1972 Constitution, with several subsequent amendments, Panama is a unified state, presidential republic. The president is both the head of state and the head of government and is elected in general elections for five years without the possibility of re-election. The president has wide powers, but his position depends on military support. The National Assembly consists of 71 representatives elected for five years from local districts. Politics are characterized by loose party coalitions as well as personal and clan rivalry, as well as the military traditionally held a strong position.

Administrative division

Panama is divided into nine provinces and three autonomous Native American reserves. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PM can stand for Panama. The provinces are governed by a president-appointed governor and are under strong central control. There are 67 local districts which are again divided into municipalities. The local districts have some self-government, under elected councils and a council-elected mayor.


The courts are presided over by a supreme court with nine presidential judges, five court judges, mobile courts and local judges.


The ‘national reconciliation’ government of President Pérez Balladares, leader of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), did little to combat the three emergencies indicated in its program as priorities: the rise in drug trafficking crimes, rising unemployment and the poverty that plagued a large part of the Panamanian population. Rather, the executive concentrated its efforts on implementing a five-year plan of economic modernization and incentives for foreign investment, carried out in spite of its high social costs.

The government’s plan focused on the reform of the tax system, on the removal of customs barriers, on the privatization of public enterprises, but above all on the introduction of greater flexibility and the reduction of labor costs to ensure greater competitiveness for Panamanian exports. A process of revision of the pension system was also initiated, against which in October 1996 over 40 took to the streets in the capital. 000 public employees.

In June 1996, the lack of support from some minor formations forced the government to withdraw, for lack of the necessary qualified majority in Parliament, its amnesty bill which would have benefited almost a thousand former officers of General Noriega, mostly members of the PRD. In the same year, two scandals undermined the executive’s credibility, frustrating its efforts to improve the country’s international image, considered one of the world’s centers for money laundering from illicit business and international drug trafficking.

In May, evidence emerged of involvement in dirty money ‘laundering’ operations of a recently failed commercial bank, on whose Board of Directors sat leading figures of the PRD, while in June, after some rumors appeared in the international press, the president Pérez Balladares was forced to admit that his 1994 election campaign was partly funded by a Colombian citizen linked to the Cali drug cartel.

Faced with the worsening of discontent in the country over the corruption of the political class on the one hand, and, on the other, the neoliberal policy of the government, Balladares promoted a popular referendum to remove the constitutional rule that prohibited the president in office from running for office. for a second consecutive term. Concerns about a possible authoritarian turn, fueled by Balladares’ close ties to former dictator Noriega (whose regime had been overthrown by US military intervention nine years earlier), were welded to popular discontent over the social costs of economic reforms.: on 30 August 1998 the population expressed itself by a large majority (64% of votes) against the hypothesis of constitutional reform. The loss of support of the Balladares government finally translated into the electoral results of May 1999, when the presidential elections saw the victory of M. Moscoso (widow of former president Arnulfo Arias and candidate of the center-right list, the Union of Panama, who, in populist tones, had focused the electoral campaign on employment, the fight against poverty and the need for new agricultural subsidies), elected with 44.9 % of the votes against the government candidate of the Social Democratic New Nation list (list that nevertheless obtained the majority of seats in the legislative elections).

On the international level, in the second half of the nineties, Panama increased his relations, especially economic ones, with some countries of the northern Pacific area (in particular Japan, South Korea and China), while at the regional level, starting from from the mid-1990s, relations with neighboring Colombia experienced a progressive deterioration following the entry into the Darién region of thousands of Colombian refugees, including numerous left-wing guerrillas and members of right-wing paramilitary forces responsible for serious episodes of criminal violence. However, relations with the United States remained central, above all due to the problems connected with the return by the United States of full control of the Canal area and the Canal itself.

On the basis of the agreements sanctioned by the 1977 treaties (see App. V, iv, p. 37), in September 1995 new talks were started in Washington to discuss the possibility of maintaining the US military presence even after 31 December 1999, expiration date for the return of the Channel. Such an eventuality, criticized by Panamanian public opinion as considered to be harmful to national sovereignty, was instead hoped for by those who feared the negative economic repercussions that could result from a complete US withdrawal. The negotiations resulted in December 1997at the conclusion of an interim agreement that provided for the transformation of one of the US military bases into a regional drug center, whose operational force would be made up of contingents from Panamanian and other Latin American countries, but above all by about 2,000 US soldiers. The emergence of different views among the negotiators on the duration of the new treaty and the tasks to be entrusted to the US forces (Washington demanded a pact for at least a dozen years and the explicit recognition for its troops of a role that was not limited to only fight against drugs) as well as public protests prevented the Balladares government, first, and then the one led by M.1999) the conclusion of a definitive agreement.